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Holt basketball player brings love of God, game to Ugandan orphanage
Mar 19, 2013

Originally published in the Lansing State Journal March 8, 2013

By David Harns

Note: Terrence King is an Olivet College alumnus

Terrence King watches his son as they stand outside Entebbe International Airport in Kampala, Uganda. More than 7,500 miles from their home in Holt. King knows there is something going on inside the head of his 17-year-old.

Yet he waits for Terrance Jay King II to regain his bearings before asking him what he’s thinking.

“Dad,” TJ says. “I can’t believe I’m here.”

TJ King had never been outside of the United States before; yet there he was, in the summer of 2012, near the Nile River, seven time zones ahead of mid-Michigan.

This was the start of a life-changing experience—one in which he was able to combine his love of basketball and his love for God at two orphanages on the East African plateau.

So, how does a high school senior end up halfway around the world teaching dozens of orphans both the basics of basketball and the tenets of his faith?

He follows his father’s lead. Terrence is the pastor at Christian Celebration Center in Lansing. He’d been to Uganda before to work with local pastors, teaching them to be better leaders. Yet, Terrence’s thoughts always returned to the children at the orphanage. Some were abandoned; others orphaned because their parents died of AIDS.

What could he possibly do to improve their lives?

How about teaching them the game of basketball? The seed was planted, but they needed basketball hoops. Terrence told them how to build hoops from wood. When he and TJ returned two years later, the hoops – and children ready to learn – were there.

The first Kids Court Camp was held at Destiny Academy, a home for more 1,500 orphans in Kampala. Destiny put together a makeshift basketball court for the camp – wooden hoops and all.

TJ’s job was to work the kids and show them some of the basics of basketball, while Terrence worked with the adults. But, of course, Terrence couldn’t stay inside.

“Basketball is a passion that both TJ and I share,” said Terrence, who played at Olivet College. TJ is a senior on the Holt High School boys basketball team.

The Kings ran 42 campers through two days of basketball drills, emphasizing basic skills in both large and small groups, through ball handling, shooting techniques, passing, lateral movement, speed and agility. The instruction was met with enthusiasm, energy and a spirit of fun. On the second day of camp, the campers were rewarded with T-shirts.

Stella, one of the first campers to arrive and among the last to leave, repeatedly told TJ how much attending the camp meant to her. For him, it was one of many examples of the impact basketball was having.

“They enjoyed it a lot,” TJ said. “And so did I.”

Basketball – and Bible verses

In between basketball sessions, Terrence and TJ taught the kids the theme verse from TJ’s youth group: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

They focused on the five principles found in the verse – speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.

The second Kids Court Camp was at the King Solomon’s Academy in Bulenga, home of more than 400 orphans, where over 80 children participated. Most of the participants were from the orphanage but many heard about the camp and had come in off the streets. They ran their drills in the dirt, with homemade wooden hoops precariously nailed together at each end. They wore flip-flops or came barefoot. They just wanted a chance to play.

“The people were very hospitable,” said TJ. “You could count on them coming up, shaking your hand, giving you a hug, smiling.”

While the majority of the participants understood a British English, interpreters were needed for the more detailed instruction and the Kings relied a lot on demonstration of the skills and drills.

After the camps, TJ would sign autographs, take pictures, recount stories of his favorite NBA player – Dwyane Wade – and discuss the players that the locals already knew about: Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Bringing back help

The next time the Kings travel to Uganda, hopefully this summer, Terrence would like to have some corporate sponsors lined up. Among his ideas, maybe Nike could donate some shoes or apparel. Maybe Spaulding could provide some basketballs. Maybe there is a company that would help finance a real basketball court.

The Kings have commitments from parents of local students to donate 100 pairs of shoes for the next trip. And they’d also like to raise money to drill wells and establish clean water sources for these communities.

In the interim, TJ is focused on graduating high school and continuing his education. TJ is an early college student, in the second year of a Lansing Community College program that allows participants to get an associate’s degree after their first year of college. He intends to earn a psychology degree at LCC before he transfers to Western Michigan or the University of Michigan.

Terrence says the trip to Uganda had a huge impact on him and his son.

“It helps us understand how blessed we are here in the U.S.,’ Terrence King said. “We take a great deal for granted. The word poverty is much different in a developing country than it is here. We grew to be a great deal more appreciative of what we have when we got back. We did a great deal of bonding and spending time together. We grew in our relationship through the whole experience. You can’t experience that and not have it change your life.”

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